By: Will Burchfield
The Pistons haven’t played in downtown Detroit for almost 40 years, but that may not be the case for much longer.
According to reports, the team is in advanced talks to move back to its old stomping grounds and take up residence at the new Little Caesars Arena either next season or the one after it. The Pistons haven’t called downtown Detroit home since leaving Cobo Arena in 1978.
Plenty of work remains to hammer out a deal, but here are five reasons why the Pistons should leave the Palace of Auburn Hills for Little Caesars Arena.
The Pistons have struggled to draw fans to an old arena in an out-of-the-way location. Since their 259-game sellout streak ended in 2009, they have routinely finished among the bottom-ten teams in the league in yearly attendance. Even last year, when the Pistons returned to the playoffs for the first in six seasons, they finished 27th in average capacity (74.8 percent). A move downtown could help get fans back in the seats, ready to enjoy the burgeoning bar and restaurant scene around the arena.
2. Sports Metropolis
Detroit is one of only 13 U.S. cities that boasts a team in all four major professional sports leagues. With the Lions, Tigers and Red Wings already located downtown, it makes sense for the Pistons to join them. It would create a bonafide sports metropolis in the heart of a rebounding city.
3. Strengthening A Bond
Perhaps part of the reason the Pistons have struggled to draw crowds is because the team, situated outside of the city, doesn’t feel like Detroit’s own. The Pistons were in Pontiac from 1978-88 and then Auburn Hills ever since. By moving back downtown, they could strengthen the bond with the city they represent, and the people who live and work there.
4. Easier Access
Most fans seem to agree that getting to an arena in downtown Detroit would be far easier than making the schlep to Auburn Hills. I-75 north is notoriously traffic-clogged on Pistons game nights, and it’s a heck of a trek from the main metro Detroit hub communities in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties — so much so that some fans feel it isn’t worth the hassle to see their team play. Attending games would be much more appealing to the working folk downtown – a population that is only growing – if the Pistons worked (and played) right there with them.
5. Boon To Little Caesars
As much as it would behoove the Pistons to relocate downtown, so would it behoove Little Caesars Arena to accommodate them. The Red Wings will play at least 41 home games per season at Little Caesars beginning in 2017-18, and the Pistons would instantly double that number. In terms of building excitement at a new area – and fostering activity within The District Detroit – adding another tenant could go a long way. Gores has invested heavily in upgrades to the Palace, but it’s undeniably aging. The only NBA arenas older than The Palace are Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks, and Oracle Arena in Oakland, home to the Golden State Warriors.